NEW YORK — The hopes and dreams of young men across South Florida and beyond hinge on two days of painstaking analysis and judgment calls as fans will be glued to TV screens everywhere for the 2008 National Football League draft this weekend.
With several major and mid-major colleges involved in the talent pool to choose from, the experts will help to change lifestyles and bank accounts along the way.
According to rivals.com, one of the nation’s leading college sports prospects and recruiting websites, the top 100 field has several candidates in the area and in the state who are ready for the big time.
As a perennial powerhouse for championships and talent, the “U,” better known as the University of Miami, has two defensive studs to look out for on the next level.
Many NFL scouts view Kenny Phillips a 6-foot-1 205-pound junior defensive safety, who is also rated in the top 10 on the rivals.com list, as the best among more than 130 players at his position. He is also expected to be the first player selected from the Canes. As an All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, he was a mainstay all year. He started every game, and had the second-best total on the team for tackles with 82. He is expected to go in the first round.
Calais Campbell is another defensive standout with a lot of potential. The 6-foot-7, 280- pound junior defensive end has star quality and was a preseason
All-American candidate. He started every game at right defensive end, and ranked fifth on the team in tackles with 50. He is expected to go in the second or third round.
The University of Florida, national champions from 2006, boasts the speedy junior Derrick Harvey. The 6-foot-5, 271-pound defensive end paced the Gators to an ACC lead and a 10th ranking nationally in run defense, allowing only 103 yards per game. Harvey is expected to go as a first round choice.
Kevin Smith is also expected to be taken fairly early in the draft out of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The 6-foot-1, 217-pound junior running back was an All-Conference USA choice and co-offensive player of the year. He led the nation in rushing, and also set school and conference records, with 2,567 yards and 29 touchdowns. He is only the second player in National Collegiate Athletic Association history to rush for over 2,500 yards in a season.
In another area of the state where an unlikely leader among draft schools has emerged is the University of South Florida in Tampa. The Bulls were one of college football’s true Cinderellas in the 2007 campaign. Experts have Mike Jenkins, Trae Williams, and Ben Moffitt all seeing action to the next level.
Jenkins, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior defensive back is an athletic, strong All-American who played a major part in the Bulls’ ranking eighth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. He could go as a top 20 pick.
Williams is a 5-foot-9, 193-pound senior All-Big East conference defensive back ranking seventh on the team in tackles with 55. He could go in the third to fifth round.
Moffitt is a 6-foot-1, 234-pound senior linebacker who was a Dick Butkus Award semi-finalist and ranked second on his team in tackles with 104. His draft stock was greatly improved at the combine in March due to a great performance.